Rail link to Leh: Centre seeks Plan panel nod

Taking a step further on the proposed strategic Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line, the Union Railway Ministry has sought approval of the Planing Commission of India for the project after examining its feasibility report. In a letter to Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Union Minister of State for Railways E Ahamed communicated the fresh development on the ambitious project proposed by the state government.

Besides the proposal to construct a fresh railway line between Manali and Leh-Ladakh, Dhumal said on Sunday, the ministry was also actively considering conversion of narrow gauge Pathankot-Jogindernagar rail track into broad gauge and its further extension up to Mandi. The proposal is to link the Manali-Leh rail line with the Pathankot-Jogindernagar line at Mandi. The pre-feasibility report pegs the cost of entire 498-kilometre all-weather broad gauge Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line at Rs 22,831 crore.

In a statement issued here, Dhumal said: "The 48-km stretch between Jogindernagar and Mandi had been surveyed by the railway ministry and was estimated to cost Rs 130 crore. With the linking of Pathankot-Jogindernagar railway line at Mandi with the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line, it will pass through the centre of the state, connecting Bilaspur, Mandi and Kangra districts with broad gauge railway line."

The 181-km Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow gauge railway line had already been surveyed by the railway ministry for conversion into broad gauge and the project was likely to cost Rs 3,279 crore with electric traction and Rs 2,888 crore with diesel traction.

"The Planning Commission should accord top priority to the project, as it will prove to be vital link to connect strategically important border areas in Leh and transport military supplies, keeping in view the communication upgrade being done by the neighbouring country along the border," said Dhumal.

The railway line is also being seen as a major boost for tourism in this part of the country. After exploration by the state, private parties have also offered to construct the railway line.

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